As someone who plays some very quick games, and some very long ones, I wanted to share some things I’ve learned during my years of playing Warhammer 40K that help speed up a game. Newer players will most likely find this more useful than the vets out there but hopefully there’s something in here for the vets too.
Note: I’ve updated this guide for Warhammer 40K 7th edition.
Always Be Planning Your Turn
You should be formulating your strategy as the game unfolds. As your opponent is making his moves you should be considering your response. As you’re losing models from shooting and assault you should be considering your upcoming turn. Naturally the outcome of your opponent’s turn impacts yours but if you’re working it out as his/her turn progresses then you have less to consider once you’re up. Do not wait until it’s your movement before you start figuring out what you want to do. If you’re pondering during your turn and spending time debating with yourself what to do with each and every unit then the game will drag on and on and make it far less fun for both of you.
Template Weapons and Wounds
When dealing with templates and how many are hit you should always either call all the hits under your own templates, or if you’re inclined let your opponent call all the hits under your templates. Don’t both sit there and look at it because without fail you’ll both view it differently and it can lead to arguing over 1-2 hits. For the sake of speed and argument agree on one method and stick to it.
Wound and Hull Point Counters
Try to not use dice to mark wounds on a model or hull points on a vehicle. It’s too easy to forgot what those makers are being used for and pick them up to roll. I use the skull markers that came in the old status effect marker set that Games Workshop put out years ago. I’ve seen others use the glass beads common as makers in other games.
Psychic Powers and Effects
What I like to do is place the psychic power card next to the unit it’s effecting. I do this for my own units benefiting from blessings and enemy units I’ve applied maledictions to. It’s just so much easier to remember who has what going on this way.
Rulebook & Codices
Leave the rule checking for when it’s your opponent’s turn or after the game unless it’s critical and/or game altering. You should know the game rules and your codex well enough to not have to stop every turn and every phase to reference something. If your question isn’t going to alter the outcome of the game then just go with what you think it is and look it up later. When in doubt it’s best to err on the side of your opponent and not in your favor. If you both disagree on it then roll it off, or if possible ask an impartial third party, like a friend or another player.
Learning Your Rules
If you’re new to 40k and learning the rules then spend the most time learning things that directly pertain to your army. If you’re using Tau then make a point to get down the shooting rules and procedures while spending less time on assault rules – generalizing here. Tau also don’t have walkers, bikes and artillery (to name a few), so don’t worry about memorizing that stuff at first. You will want to know it eventually but first get down the items you are using and then move on to the things you’ll be facing.
Write Notes for Units and Special Rules
If you’re new to the game, or trying out an unfamiliar army list or unit, get a sheet of paper and write out the stats and a brief line or two of any special rules and weapon stats that you haven’t memorized. Don’t rely on army builder programs to tell you all the rules. It’s nice as training wheels, but when you rely on those training wheels for too long, and all the time, you can’t ever get up to speed. By writing them down, you increase your ability to memorize them threefold.
Writing it down is simple, easy to read for reference in a way you know (they are your notes), and reduces the gobs of paragraphs and explanations you must skim through if you’re referencing the rule directly in the codex or rulebook.
Explain Your Units and Rules
Before the game starts you should go over your army and explain your units and any special rules they have. If you’re under a time constraint, like at a tournament, then explain as you’re deploying. In either case, make your opponent aware of what you have. Nobody likes being unaware of something special a unit does until they are on the receiving end of it. Don’t keep things a secret to gain an advantage. It’s unsportsmanlike and will not win you any friends.
Memorize the Common Charts
To Hit with Shooting
In shooting to hit is always: 7 – ballistic skill, IE: 7 – 4 (BS4) = 3 to hit.
Wounding for Shooting and Close Combat
Wounding works as follows whether it’s shooting or assault. If the strength is equal to toughness then it’s always a 4 to wound. From there you scale up or down. If the strength is 1 higher than toughness then you need a 3 to wound, 2 higher would mean you need a 2, and a 1 always fails to wound regardless. With higher strength to toughness it’s naturally easier to wound so you scale in your favor using 4 as the base value.
The other way, if your strength is 1 lower than the toughness then you need a 5 to wound, 2 or 3 lower means you need a 6 to wound. You can never wound anything that has a toughness more than 3 higher than your strength. So, a S4 attack can’t wound T8. Likewise, a S5 attack can’t wound T9. So, lower strength makes it harder to wound and again we use 4 as a base value.
If this makes it easier to remember, think of it like this, here’s two examples:
(T3 – S5) + 4 = 2
(T6 – S5) + 4 = 5
To Hit in Close Combat
To hit in assault seems trickier at first but it really isn’t. Any weapon skill less than your own means you need a 3 to hit and you can never do better than a 3 to hit. Any weapon skill equal to yours and up to a maximum of twice your weapon skill means you need a 4 to hit. Any weapon skill more than double yours means you need a 5 and you can never do worse than a 5 – barring some special rule.
Vehicle Damage Chart
The vehicle damage chart is easy to memorize, there are only 5 results, 6 including flyers. Once you have the results memorized then work on remembering the modifiers, IE: open topped, AP2, API1, etc.
Memorizing Unit Stats
I find when it comes to remembering your army’s unit stats that it’s easier to find a common denominator. Using Orks as an example. An Ork Boy stats are a good baseline to remembering other unit stats. Once you know a Boy’z stats it’s easy to remember a Nob is +1 strength, +1 attack and +1 wound more than a Boy. Also, Boy stats are used for other units like Tankbustas, Stormboyz, Kommandos, anything that’s a normal Ork. The same holds true of other armies like Space Marines. Also, take the time to learn the army you’re facing; use this same method to make it easier.
Memorizing Weapon Stats
Weapons can be a bit trickier depending on your army but it’s still well worth the time to memorize them. You don’t want to have to look up your weapon stats every time you’re shooting or assaulting. There are also a lot of weapons that are the same from army to army. A bolter used by a Space Marine is the same stats as a bolter used by Astra Militarum. Most weapons for the Imperium are this way.
Measuring unit movement can take forever if you have an infantry heavy army, at least if you’re measuring each single model in that unit. It’s far faster to measure one model and then move the rest of the models inline in the same formation. I’ll measure again for models that may need to circle around something or shift position, but for everything else that’s staying in formation there’s no need to keep measuring. You may not be 100% accurate but you’ll be close enough as long as you measured accurately for the first model you moved.
Dice Rolling for a Unit
In close combat you can roll different weapons together as long as it’s the same initiative. If you have four models with standard close combat weapons and one model with a power weapon, and they are all at the same initiative, then color code your dice. Try and keep your color coding consistent to make it easier too. My Chaos Sorcerer always uses blue dice for his attacks and my Chaos Lord uses red.
Get Dice Ready Ahead of Time
If you can, setup the dice you need to roll ahead of time. If your opponent is collecting his dice to make his assault attacks, and you have another assault to deal with after, then get your dice ready for the other assault. You can do the same with shooting. Once you wound and your opponent is getting dice together for saves, start getting dice ready for your next unit to fire.
Don’t be readying your dice though once the rolls start, stay focused on what’s going on. Distraction adds time to the game and also can cost you in terms of the game.
The common practice for picking up dice once you have rolled is to pick up your failures. This way if you make a mistake it harms you and not your opponent. Sometimes it’s easier though to pick up successes. If you rolled a bucket of dice and only two succeeded then snag those two dice, just make sure your opponent is watching you as you do it.
Even Faster Dice
There’s an official dice rolling app that you can use called Assault Dice. You can setup units ahead of time, quickly roll and pick up dice, do re-rolls, deal with scatters, and anything else you need to do with dice in a 40K game. It’s a HUGE time-saver with armies packing a lot of dice, like Orks and Astra Militarum.
If you make a point to do these things then you’ll be very surprised how much faster your games go, seriously. All those little things that only took an extra minute add up a lot more than you realize. I can play at the local shop against someone who utilizes the above mentioned stuff and we can play a 2,000 game in 2 hours. I’ve played 1,500 games in an hour. We’re not playing speed 40k either, we just know the rules, our own rules, usually enough of the army we’re facing and make a point to use the procedures mentioned. On the other side, when I play someone who is constantly checking game rules, his rules, measuring every model, using bad dice rolling procedures, then I’ve seen a 2,000 game take upwards of 4-6 hours and at that point the game loses a lot of fun.
Remember, the more efficient you can make your games the more you can play. Not only more games in a day, if you’re fortunate enough to be able to do so, but if a game takes less time out of your day then you can more easily find the time to play them; you don’t have to set aside a 6 hour slot to play.
Do you have any tips for faster 40K games?